FOR anyone who's been to Thailand, chances are an elephant ride was part of the exotic experience.
But one man is calling for Australians to re-consider riding elephants after becoming aware of treatment of many of the endangered species.
His campaign is called Ride Bikes, Not Elephants and he's cycling from Melbourne to Cairns to get the message out.
Yesterday, Matt Rousu passed through the Gladstone region on what can only be called the ride of his life.
"The idea is to ride up the east coast and try and raise as much awareness about how elephants are treated overseas," Matt said.
"I wanted to do something a bit crazy to get people's attention, so I'm riding solo for 4000km."
Matt set off from Melbourne on July 21and has been making his way up the coastline since. He hopes to arrive in Cairns by early October.
Matt said it wasn't until he travelled to Thailand that he became aware of the trauma experienced by many elephants.
"When we visited the Elephant Nature Park in Northern Thailand, we heard the stories of each of the elephants and it was devastating," he said.
"When we went on an elephant ride and saw how they were treated by the trainers, it just didn't feel right.
"We've come to know that many elephants in Thailand are separated from their families, forced to work long hours, forced to breed, poached from the wild, drugged, chained, beaten and controlled."
Matt said there are predictions the Asian elephant will be extinct by 2050.
"There are only around 50,000 Asian elephants left and 15,000 of these are in captivity," he said.
"So one third of the remaining population are trained, often brutally, just so humans can make money."
Matt is calling for the community to make an informed choice when it comes to riding an elephant.
"When you go over there and see the elephants that are free, that aren't being forced to perform, there's nothing like it," Matt said.
"It's much more rewarding giving an elephant a mud bath than riding one or watching it paint."
"I hope people will research their elephant experience before they go there."
Matt has already raised $15,000 for the cause and hopes to travel to Thailand in November with $20,000. The money will go directly to the Elephant Nature Park who will assist an elephant in need.
If you would like to support Matt's ride, visit justgiving.com/mattrousu. You can also keep up to date with Matt's journey on ridebikesnotelephants.com.